2018 was the worst year for UK-Russia relations for quite sometime. It was a great shame and sad pity during the year that Russia hosted what was widely acclaimed as one of the finest World Cups in recent memory and at a time when the UK has been growing more and more isolated and disliked in the international community. It did not have to be like that and still does not need to be in such a dire state. President Putin has consistently made clear the Russian Federation does not view the UK as a threat and would rather seek dialogue and rapprochement with London rather than constant bickering and confrontation with a state of intense hostility existing from the British Government.
The Russian Government led by President Putin and the Russian people have offered olive branch after olive branch in gestures of cooperation and kindness for a better, more dynamic and durable diplomatic relationship between Moscow and London. All of which have been rebuffed in the most immature and crass fashion by the British State. The fact is the signal was sent under the Home Office of Theresa May and previous Tory Premiership of David Cameron that Russian business people and Russian investment were greatly welcomed in the UK with the large dispensing of Investor Visas for Russians to come and work, live and invest in the UK economy helping to create jobs and steady British finances.
As ever with the English they have a tendency to send mixed signals and never be clear about what their agenda is as was the case with the investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. The sharp turn about in the atmosphere for Russian investment and Russian entrepreneurs and business people in the UK has been bewildering, stupid, offensive and deeply irresponsible. The whipping up of an aggressively and hysterically hostile anti-Russian xenophobia by the British Government has been utterly contemptuous and difficult to ignore. To go out of its way to start to smear and disrupt legitimate Russian activities and slander the Russian State and people has not only been egregious in the difficulties it has created for decent Russian citizens attempting to make their way in the world and shortsighted in the souring of potential long term UK-Russian economic and financial collaboration, it has also exposed at the heart of the British State an ingrained, systemic prejudice and bigotry of Russia by the British State.
As the Brexit Referendum has made clear in the UK, the English are an extremely irrational, angry, mean, narrow minded and insular people. Whether it is holding deeply offensive and bigoted prejudices on EU migrants, or the Irish and now Russians, the English psyche of always feeling under attack and searching out enemies rather than concentrating on striving for harmony and rational calm has not only been on full display with regards to its external relations with the rest of the EU but also Russia too. As a nation and a people the English/British rarely take the long view and scan and think, organise and plan for the long horizon of life and world history.
If the British Government and State was truly visionary they would have grasped in this moment of international relations in the early decades of the 21st century this was the time to remake the relationship between two important countries in Europe, Britain and Russia, in an imaginative and creative way that would be of mutual benefit to both the Russian and British peoples and interests in terms of the enhanced business opportunities and entrepenurial networking and cultural, artistic and academic exchanges and endeavours that the UK and Russia could undertake together. While I served as International Development Officer for Cambridge University it was a great honour and pleasure to facilitate a visit from a delegation with the State Darwin Museum in Moscow. This was back in the days of December 2007 and it was the most marvellous visit with the delegation engaging in the preparations Cambridge University were making for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. I was extremely pleased with the links and connections made during that visit between Cambridge University and the State Darwin Museum, Moscow.
It is not just in the spheres of business and culture, academia and the arts and science where Moscow and London could have partnered in recent years for mutual benefit, but also in the military field too. The British armed forces could learn a thing or two from one of the most successful armies on earth, which unlike their British counterparts, actually withstood and pushed back with ultimate defeat of the Nazi Wehrmacht, one of the most heroic military achievements in human history while the Russian intelligence services are deemed to be some of the greatest ever known to humankind. Yet as ever with the British/English so many missed and wasted opportunities have been replaced with acrimony, recrimination, aggression and poor communication.
We now have a UK intent on a Cold War with its closest and most important trading partners in the form of the EU; a British Prime Minister viewed as one of the most disaster prone PM's for quite some time; poor relations between 10 Downing Street and the White House and a British State and its intelligence and security apparatus intent on thumbing its nose at the Russian Federation, a far stronger country than anything the UK can muster as a nation-state. The prognosis for the future state of UK-Russia relations is not good and that is down to the British Government.
It is the British State which is ultimately responsible for whether it enjoys a good, healthy and constructive relationship with the Russian Government and Russian people. It is the British State alone which must make its decisions and chart its course as a medium-sized middle ranking country off the shores of the European Union with very few true and strong friends in the international community. And it is the British Government that must be held responsible for the deterioration in relations between a Great Power like Russia and a middle-ranking power like Britain.